Mario remains the jewel in Nintendo's crown, effortlessly bridging casual and hardcore appeal with his kiddy-friendly appearance and impeccable hardcore level design. And while the other game companies may wish they had him in their portfolio, truth is Mario wouldn't fit on another console. Microsoft would probably hand him to Rare to kiddify into the ground, while Sony execs would banish him to PSN as a quirky downloadable throwback. But Nintendo tackles the now taboo idea of a kid-friendly gaming mascot in the era of space marines and psycho-killers with charm, gravity and exceptional quality.
What's more, the open-ended nature of progression through Galaxy 2 means that a lot of the tougher levels can be passed up without halting your march towards the battle with Bowser. A good thing, too – some of the challenges are brutal, the like of which we haven't seen since the 16-bit era. They're there if you fancy the challenge, though – and not one of the 242 levels feels like it's there for the sake of it, easily matching the original Galaxy for invention and scale.
Above: Control, audio, art style, invention, longevity... Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just magnificent in every way
Graphically, it's beautifully realised, and would only need HD resolution to look as good as a 'big console' release. This standard-def adventure defies all the Wii's supposed shortcomings, delivering unforgettable scenes and a cohesive art direction across its myriad of worlds.
Nintendo now has the first and second best 3D platformers ever made on one machine in the shape of Galaxy 2 and its predecessor. Miyamoto must be pretty smug.
The moment you can't get anywhere else: Grandmaster Galaxy Daredevil Run
This is simply the hardest platform level in modern gaming. The final star in the game requires you to beat the already hard-as-nails Grandmaster Galaxy with the tiny proviso that you mustn't get hit by an enemy. It requires you to utilise skills you've developed over some 15 years of 3D Mario games, making pixel-perfect long jumps, swinging around with Yoshi's tongue, saving uses of the new cloud suit for later sections and mastering the now-familiar capabilities of the Wii Remote.
Finally getting into that last launch star and watching the white-out clear to reveal Princess Rosalina standing by the final gold star is just something else. Mario, you've done it again... how will you top this?
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